Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.

June 15, 2017

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources


Grenfell Tower block tragedy

72 people were killed by the horrific fire that engulfed the Grenfell Tower block of flats in North Kensington, West London on Wednesday, 14 June 2017.

Hackitt interim reportThe 24-storey tower block burnt throughout the day, taking firefighters over 24 hours to get it under control, leading to confusion and uncertainty that lasted for days. Speaking at the time, Metropolitan Police Commander Stuart Cundy said there was an ‘awful reality’ that it may not be possible to identify some people. “I must consider the fact that there may be others in the building who, for whatever reason, have not been reported to us.

In the days that followed the tragedy, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered a public inquiry into the devastating blaze. “Right now, people want answers. That’s why I am today ordering a full public inquiry into this disaster,” said the PM whilst visiting the scene. “We need to know what happened, we need to have an explanation of this. People deserve answers; the inquiry will give them.”

A criminal investigation was also opened to examine whether building regulations had been breached when the block was refurbished, while then-Communities Secretary Sajid Javid set up an Independent Expert Advisory Panel (IEAP) to report on what measures could be implemented to make buildings safer.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan commented shortly after that the fire was a “preventable accident” caused by “years of neglect” by the local council and successive governments and demanded a “national response” to the tragedy.

Download: A technical guide to sprinkler systems

Grenfell Tower was built in 1974 and consisted of 120 flats and also included communal facilities. An £8.6-million refurbishment of the block took place in 2015/16 and the bottom four floors were extensively remodelled, adding nine additional homes.

Reports at the time suggested that residents of Grenfell had raised concerns about fire safety in the flats going back many years but they were ‘disregarded’. Rydon Construction, which carried out the refurbishment work, is reported to have said that it “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”

Following the refurbishment work, London Fire Brigade gave the tower block a ‘medium’ fire risk rating but the resident’s group continued to make claims about fire safety worries.

Under scrutiny

In the year since the tragedy, investigations into the cause and response to the fire have been ongoing.

The ongoing public inquiry, launched by its Chair Sir Martin Moore-Bick in August 2017, received hundreds of thousands of documents and hundreds of applications to be core participants. Oral evidence and findings from expert reports began to be heard in June 2018. Hearings are due to continue until September 2018. A second phase of the inquiry will begin later in the year.

In May, Dame Judith Hackitt, a former Chair of the HSE, delivered her final recommendations following her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety for the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Hackitt concluded that indifference and ignorance had led to a “race to the bottom” in building safety practices and expressed the need for a “radical rethink of the whole system and how it works”. This included recommendations for recommends a “very clear model of risk ownership” and an “outcomes-based” regulatory framework, but did not recommend an explicit ban on combustible cladding.

Following the report’s publication, the government said it would consult on banning combustible cladding. Housing Secretary James Brokenshire added that ministers will also look to ban the use of desktop studies to assess the performance of external cladding systems based on the BS 8414 test.

The cladding used on housing is one of the primary focuses of scrutiny following the Grenfell fire. An estimated 800 high rise buildings across the country use similar cladding to that found in Grenfell Tower. A number of tests into cladding have resulted worrying results: Javid said in September that of 173 high-rise social housing blocks fitted with aluminium cladding, only 8 passed fire safety building regulations.

It was revealed in March that only seven of the 158 social housing blocks in England with dangerous cladding have had the material completely removed. The government announced in May that it will fund a £400-million operation to remove dangerous cladding from tower blocks owned by councils and housing associations.

Also under scrutiny is the standard advice to tenants of blocks of flats that they are safer if they stay in their accommodation than to leave, unless it is their flat which is on fire.

This story was updated on 06/06/18 to include additional information

Latest Grenfell Tower articles

Barbour webinar: Building a safer future - Learning lessons from Grenfell to deliver safer buildings

It is now one year since 72 people lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire, a shocking and harrowing event which has caused a series of searching questions to be asked about our society and in particular our relationship to fire safety in buildings.

In May of this year, Dame Judith Hackitt published an independent review entitled “Building a Safer Future” which looked at Building Regulation and Fire Safety systems focussing on high-rise residential buildings. The report was extremely hard-hitting, pointing out ignorance, systemic failings, indifference and lack of regulatory enforcement. It was wide-ranging – looking at design and construction through to procurement and supply. In this webinar, Dame Judith will describe her findings and answer questions about the review.


Related Topics

Leave a Reply

newest oldest most voted
Notify of
Darren Taylor-Ridge

Grenfell Tower fire is ‘corporate manslaughter’ and arrests must be made, MP David Lammy says.

I will be more interested to see what the HSE and FIA findings are. I am sure those that conducted the Fire Risk Assessment are now twitching and those who did not act on any recommendations should start to worry. Building quality control has been reported as diminishing over recent years with lesser skilled staff undertaking building activity.

Above lets thank the absolute heroes who attended that fire to assure the safety of so many with great risk to themselves.

Andrew Tootell
First of all, my heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and those who have loved ones missing. The main purpose of the fire risk assessment is prevention of the fire starting in the first place, this is very difficult in the housing sector as occupants will carry out daily activities that could result in fire such as cooking/smoking etc. In addition to this, there are fire risks associated with electrical items and most recently the fire risk associated to tumble dryers; it is this area that is weak in the fire risk assessment as landlords… Read more »
Celine Garcia
My sincere sympathy to all the families who lost loved ones in this fire. What a tragedy. It never should have happened Never…. Interesting to see what caused the fire as it raged as an inferno. Perhaps its time for all large buildings to have a safety officer particularly with the amount of people in a building such as this, I mean a 24/7 safety officer. Its too early to say what cause the fire so we wait to hear the investigations. We need to take steps that this never happens again. I pray for the victims and their families.… Read more »
Gliceria R. Derrota
An establishment of more than 40 years is high risk of fire. I believed that Grenfell Tower residents have been doing fire drill, However, I also want to understand that when stock in the middle of this type of disaster some people will not remember what they have learned. Maybe the following could help; * A thorough training for fire high risk places should be done often as they could. * Fire safety training/awareness should be very specific and should at least consider designations of who will run towards the alarm, which will run towards the fire hydrant/fire extinguisher etc.… Read more »
Heather Foster
Lots of questions, apart from the cladding – was the compartmentalisation compromised during the refurbishment? I understand that the heating and hot water system was changed to be a communal one, that may mean drilling holes through walls and were they properly sealed with correct intumescing sealant – was ducting properly sealed. What was the fire alarm system, was there one, can we see the Fire Risk Assessment for the building? Really only one way in and out of the building? I feel for the residents, their families and friends, this will be with them forever, horrific. I hope we… Read more »

Rydon Construction, who carried out the work, are reported to have said that it “met all required building control, fire regulation and health and safety standards.”- HOW CAN THIS BE TRUE?

David Buchanan

It’s all guesswork and speculation at the moment and we have to rely on the relevant authorities to find the truth.
If however, as was reported, the contractor believes it used approved materials and it turns out that the cheaper non fire retardant material was in fact used used this will narrow things down a bit. It could lead to an individual employee or an unscrupulous supplier, or a combination of the two colluding to make a few grand on the side. Let’s hope it was nothing so reckless.

Jack Lee CMIOSH , BA (Hons)
Jack Lee CMIOSH , BA (Hons)
The silence from the Health & Safety Executive is deafening . Grenfell Tower must have been a CDM nominated project . There must have been notification to the HSE on Form 10 .The will be a pre-tender HSE Plan and of course the chain of responsibility CDM requires . Could it be that if this cladding does appear to be a root cause of the fire escalation , who approved it? The advice to stay in the flat would have been good advice if the design of the original building had not been changed by the addition of the cladding… Read more »
paul obrien

I agree jack and am somewhat shocked that the hse are so quiet on such a tragedy, It was a notifiable project construction work, so who were the principal designers, who was the cdm co ordinator , This horrific event that killed so many people was preventable if the cdm regulations were applied and followed, The information, guidance and tools were there to design out any risks at the design stages of the project, Really this is a scandal arrests should already have been made

Lyndsey Wicks
Firstly – My thoughts and prayers go out to all the families affected by this horrific disaster. Absolutely heartbreaking this fire should never have happened and could have been preventable – lessons need to be learnt so that this horrific disaster never happens again. All people involved in the decision making of the recent refurbishment need to be brought to task and made accountable for their actions and the decisions they made. The investigation needs to look at the decision makers throughout the whole process right from the top down through management/councils/Building Inspectors/Planning Officers and down the chain to the… Read more »
peter Tanczos

I suspect most of those with duties incumbent under CDM2015 are very worried this morning. We might not ever get to the bottom of it, such as which “designer” or “person acting as as a designer” specified the non fire resistant cladding? I always recommend using “critical decisions register” when you don’t have clear lines of respnsibility or your Client buys a guard dog but insists on barking themselves.

Simon Wiltshire

It is my understanding that there were approximately 500 people living in the building. The number of people missing and/or presumed dead has been grossly understated. Using good transparency, quality and safety management I look forward to the outcome of the upcoming investigation and the legal proceedings that will undoubtably occur. May there never again be such a horrific and needless tragedy.


Unfortunately I cannot agree with many of the comments below because it is too early at this stage to make these judgements.

What evidence is there of ‘corporate manslaughter’?

Training isn’t going to help if you are fast asleep and don’t hear the alarm.

The speed the fire spread was one of the major factors from what I have seen, and the lack of containment.

Until the findings have been made and the risk assessment compared to those findings and recommendations to see exactly what happened we can only assume, and you know what that means.

Efim Rabinovitch

Like everyone else I am totally devastated by the inferno at Grenfell Tower and my thoughts are with those who have been affected.

I am also shocked to hear from the former Chief Fire Officer that “politicians stonewalled action to tighten building regulations”, adding: “They always seem to need a significant loss of life before things are changed.”

Stephen Worrell
One cannot fail to be moved by the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, the faces of families at burning windows begging for their lives and the lifelong scars that the tragedy will leave with survivors and their families. Let us also not forget, the fire fighters and emergency crews who once again have been called upon to perform the impossible, a task they carry out with such selfless bravery repeatedly entering the hell of a major fire in a desperate attempt to save lives. These heroes too will be haunted by thoughts of those they could not save. These blocks… Read more »
NIGEL Ellerton

Why are high rise flats not fitted with compulsory sprinkler systems. It was obvious despite the heroic effortsof the fire service that fire equipment couldnt reach the upper floors.